prepare yourself for some word vomit. or blogorrhea, whichever you prefer. but i've been thinking about this for the past couple of weeks. and then something happened that finally put words to my thoughts. watch out, world!
the episode from the real mom's guide online show (link no longer works) on "body image" was really difficult for me. it's hard enough to admit to myself that i don't like the way i look on the outside, let alone to whoever is watching me spill it to a camera.
i've been a bit down lately. and unfortunately, it all had to do with the reflection i saw as i looked in the mirror each day. because for me, starting at a very young age:
overweight = ugly
but honestly, until today, i never realized that before. enlightening, isn't it? not done yet. i will expound.
i always thought that i had cute features, okay hair, semi-decent skin (once jr. high was over), nice teeth (after braces), fantastic feet, and a good personality. i could hold my own in sports, had a talent for music, loved to have fun, loved to laugh.
but none of these things mattered if i felt i was fat or chubby. because those squishy parts were all that i could see, and for me they made the entire package an ugly one.
i don't know where this came from. my parents didn't put this on me, clearly not at 6 1/2, when i wrote a new year's resolution to "lose weight." i was always treated in a way that i knew i was loved, and appreciated, and valued.
so where did it come from??
i was not overweight at 6 1/2. in fact, i didn't really start to chub up until i was in 6th grade, and even then, i still looked like most of the girls my age, just a bit rounder.
but to relive a defining and devastating moment in my life, i will share a story....
and this is really, really hard for me to write about, even like 18 years later. because this traumatized me and broke my spirit in a way that probably has never happened since then.
i got asked to "go out" by a kid in 5th grade. he was cute, hung with the popular crowd, and admitted he liked me. boy, did i think i was a hot ticket. we "went out" for quite a while...which in elementary school terms, was longer than 2 weeks. we talked with each other on the phone, and would meet up with friends. got each other valentine's day presents.
that was as far as it went, but i felt special knowing that a guy liked me enough to not mind saying it in front of our entire 5th grade class.
sadly, all good things must come to an end. when he finally broke up with me, he wrote me a letter:
"10 REASONS WHY I'M BREAKING UP WITH YOU"
guess what? i don't remember 9 of them. they meant nothing to me, i knew that he was just a dumb boy and that his older brother had helped him compile this list. but the one that i did remember??
(this is word for word, burned into my memory)
"you're so fat that you can't even see the tops of your shoes."
i was crushed. devastated.
i am crying as i am typing this.
and just so you have a mental image of what i looked like, i give to you exhibit A:
(bottom row, far right, frizz-tastic hair, semi-sailor motif)
(bottom row, far right, frizz-tastic hair, semi-sailor motif)
don't make fun of my fancy pants dress, my mom did make me wear that.
want to know who my BF was? ooh, just to be spiteful, i almost outed him. but i won't, because i'm sure he's evolved past the DB type of behavior he was a part of during this age. but he's cute, and tall, and on the back row, and he's the only one in a lighter color...aka, not wearing blue, green, brown, grey or black. you do the math. (sorry, he deserved it!)
so do i look FAT to you? i already know the answer. it is NO. but when this kid wrote these words to me, the saddest part was:
i believed him.
which again reiterated the belief that fat = ugly. a harsh belief at such a young age.
you know that christina aguilera song, "beautiful" where she says:
"you are beautiful, no matter what they say...words can't bring you down"
well, that last part is CRAP. sorry christina, i know the point behind the song. but it just isn't true. his words brought me down so quickly and so violently that i remember my cheeks burning with shame as my friends and i read his "stupid letter."
so what happens to a young girl who is told she is fat and believes she is ugly??
well, let me tell you.
she does everything she can to compensate for feeling ugly. she wears make-up too young, which then blooms into just too much make-up altogether, constantly compares herself to others, buys too many clothes to try to feel pretty. avoids things, sells herself short in a lot of areas, and begins to lie. not only to others, but to herself.
she lies that she is happy, and unaffected.
i didn't have a rotten childhood. there were rough moments, but i felt that others have been through much worse than i had.
but what i did go through was inner turmoil. i truly did like my personality. in fact, i will go so far as to say i loved it. i was proud of the fact that i could be funny, make people laugh, was well-liked, had good common sense, and was kind because i wanted to be.
i loathed my outer image though. i could not stand looking in mirrors, hated having my picture taken, never wanted to get into a swimsuit. and lied to myself in the way that i would say, "it's not that bad" but once i saw a picture of myself, the devastation would come in waves and i would vow that not one more cookie would pass my lips. which would last all but a minute.
i hated to have birthday parties for myself. and what kid doesn't want presents, and cake, and friends? well, me. i knew it meant pictures, and everyone looking at me. i kept these reasons to myself, and just told my parents that i was "shy" or didn't want a party for some other excuse.
i kept my ugliness locked in a tight vault, only for me to see. and pretended i liked being the chubby, funny friend.
I. HATED. IT.
i ached to be the long-legged, straight haired, beautiful girl. or even leave out the beautiful, i just wanted to be thin. because to me, thin = beautiful. that was all i cared about.
i remember going with friends to malls, dances, roller skating rinks, line dancing. it didn't matter what i wore, how fantastic my hair was, or how cute i could act. i was constantly overlooked standing next to my thin friends.
most of the time.
every now and then, i would get noticed. but because my self-image was so messed up, i would tell myself cruel, mean things. "he's only asking you because the other girl couldn't go." and start the self-sabotage pattern which would eventually end the relationship.
which was what i was talking about in this post. believing for years that you're unattractive does a number on your belief of self-worth, and your belief on who you feel you deserve. so the good guys i dated, i would sabotage whatever was happening. the jerks, i stuck around far too long with.
for those who don't know, ben and i met in high school. we were friends, and kept in touch every now and then after high school. when i lived in jackson hole & he was going to school at BYU-Idaho, he decided to come and visit for a day. at the time i was involved with another DB and he had a girlfriend, so there was nothing but friendship going on.
but during that visit, we were at a park talking, and catching up on the past couple of years. and he said something to me that i have not forgotten, and will never forget.
"i wish you could see yourself the way others see you."
i remember looking at him and stopping all of the negative voices in my head, and only listening to one. it was the small, sad one that said back, "i wish i could too."
a few months later, i moved home to get my tonsils out and he was home on a break. we were both post-break-up and both anti-relationships. so it worked out perfectly.
and with him, i felt something that i didn't recognize.
and it started to show.
i am grateful because there has not been one time in our marriage that i have not felt beautiful when i am with him. no matter how stinky i am, whether or not i'm wearing make-up, if i'm 9 months pregnant, or if i still haven't lost the baby weight.
which is a good thing.
however, i'm realizing that i need him in order to feel beautiful. when he's gone, or when i see myself on the online show, or when i'm just staring in the mirror, i don't feel it.
which i think, is a problem.
because it's not coming from me, from the inside. it's coming from an outside source and when that source is missing, so is my self-worth.
another story, this one is a lot less depressing than the last...
last year, while living in north carolina, i took one of the group home kids out grocery shopping at sam's club with me. i was reaching for some water bottles and noticed a lovely, 30-something lady staring at me. i immediately felt self-conscious. she saw me catch her staring, and suddenly said loudly,
"you are so beautiful!" emphasis on the so.
i was flustered, caught off-guard, embarrassed. i had never had a complete stranger say these words to me.
"um, thank you," i muttered quietly, and smiled a quick smile. i walked around on clouds during that grocery trip.
as we got in the GH van, my thoughts were still focused on the comment from this stranger. so even though i didn't mean to, i blurted aloud,
"that was so nice!" another emphasis on the so.
and the teenage guy said, "what was?"
i felt stupid, because i didn't know how to get around telling him that i was still thinking about this comment. but couldn't come up with anything creative, so i said,
"oh, you know, when that lady said she thought i was pretty."
and his reply was,
"well, that's because you are."
in a very nonchalant way. like it was matter-of-fact. like, duh.
i was stunned again.
immediately i dismissed the compliment from the teenager. as i always do, when a non-stranger compliments my looks. "he said that because he didn't know what else to say," i told my self. and of course, i believed that. but as hard as i tried, there was no way to get around the compliment from this lady.
nice story, huh? i know.
so why can't i believe these words all of the time? and why does my weight have so much to do with it?
you want to know what's a tell-tale sign for me that i don't feel attractive? i change my hairstyle. so looking back in the last 6 months... i've changed my hair 4 times.
and still am not happy with it. but let's be honest here. is it really the hair?
as i was feeding the baby the other day, i flipped on the t.v. and "the view" was on. i turned it on in time to see the ending of an interview with margaret cho.
remember her? a comedian, who at one point had her own sitcom about herself.
anyway, she was talking about how the producers from the show asked her to lose some weight. to play herself. on t.v. she said she battled with bulimia, and body image issues for years.
and then one of the ladies asked her, "so, normally when people say they're coming out of the closet, it's referring to gender preference. but you say you're coming out of the ugly closet?"
and she said yes. that she was sick of feeling ugly and fat and that she was embracing her body image and finally telling herself that she is beautiful. she said she had to look at herself in the mirror and repeat it, so that she would believe it.
this was when the lightbulb came on for me.
i don't have to be thin to be beautiful! i already am beautiful!
sounds so simple right?
well, you try telling that to the 28 year old ugly girl inside of me. this mentality is years in the making, brought on by more experiences than just my 5th grade boyfriend. don't worry, i won't share them all.
so i've decided. it's time for a change.
time to come out of the ugly closet, undo the damage that has been done.
and become beautiful. or, finally believe that i always have been. no matter what size or shape i am. no matter what the scale reads.
i don't think this will be an easy or quick process. but i do believe that it will be completely worth it. i'm going to start with silencing the destructive voices and immediately change them into positive thoughts.
take more time for myself, eat better, exercise because i want to (what a novel idea this is!), get a good rest, and embrace every compliment that is given to me...without disputing it. whether it's from a stranger or not.
wish me luck, it might be a long journey.